As a woman, I think it is important to take the time to really listen to every other female you work with. Although we forget sometimes, women still have to struggle in many workplaces, so its moments like this that will contribute to the ‘greater good’ for all.
I’ve loved being labelled as a ‘creative’ in the early years of my career. A great thing about working creatively is that you often get to work alongside people who inspire you. During my time at University, I was lucky enough to be on a course with lots of women who worked relentlessly to make their vision happen. Now just two years after graduation, I get to see these ladies put their skills and visions into action and be inspired by their every move.
When I thought about doing an interview with a ‘Leading Lady’, there was one clear answer of who I should start with. Meet Lily Williams, a truly inspiring leading lady.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello, I’m Lily. I’m probably louder than most people you’d meet, but also very likely to quietly sit back and observe – I guess I like to keep people on their toes. I am very proud of the fact that I don’t feel the need to fit the boxes society has precisely laid out; I’m happily single, I love cooking feasts (then eating it all), I’m very conscious of not being glued to my smart phone (despite my love for technology) and I train twice a week in Olympic Weightlifting!
Tell us about your journey into the Tech industry.
My fascination with tech began when I was about 10, I stumbled upon a website builder called ‘Piczo’ (anyone remember that?) and was immediately engrossed. I took this very seriously. I remember Ctrl C / V-ing a whole bunch of HTML that I only slightly understood, yet somehow I managed to customise the cursor, the font, the scroll bar – all sorts! I was obsessed. Jump ahead 9 years; I’m at university creating interactive art and animations using a variety of open source coding platforms such as Arduino and Processing.
After uni I found it very difficult to get an industry job in London. I ended up working in a secondary school supporting teenagers with a variety of Special Educational Needs, a job I loved and will always remember – the kids were amazing. Here I discovered the world of “assistive technology” – also known as AT. AT is an umbrella term for specific devices and softwares that assist people with disabilities in a variety of ways. I was so blown away and inspired by the potential these technologies had to improve and enhance people’s lives.
The AT that enticed me the most were ‘Screen Readers’. Screen Readers are (mostly) used by people who are blind and visually impaired – they use a variety of keyboard shortcuts to navigate the computer, and a computerised voice will read what is on the screen. Screen readers, and AT in general allows everyone to independently access the same digital content, so there I was asking myself, is digital inclusion finally a reality? Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Assistive technologies face barriers when websites and apps aren’t created with accessibility in mind, and as a result people will not be able to independently use a website / app anymore, even with the help of the AT.
I couldn’t stand by and passively let digital content be created without considering accessibility. So that is how I got to where I am now – an Accessibility Consultant, trying to help as many companies as possible to make their digital content accessible and usable to everyone.
What do you do in your job day-to-day?
A huge mix (which I love); I am either working on site with developers and designers directly, sharing my accessibility knowledge to help them code / design content that everyone can use, or I am reviewing websites / apps, writing up accessibility issues with either code or design recommendations on how to solve the issues. This is often done working from home so I can be 100% focused (whilst being mega cosy wrapped up in my duvet of course). Or I am taking part in User Testing with people with a variety of disabilities; together we will review the accessibility of an app or website, and they will give honest feedback on any issues they find. This is very valuable as ultimately, the issues they face inspire me to work the hardest I can to solve them.
What is your favourite thing about working in the tech industry?
I always have moments where my mind is blown, and I realise how many people can benefit from the work I do as we live in such a technology based world now. I love the creative problem solving aspect, and the fact that I positively influence the digital world we are part of to be completely inclusive – this is very rewarding to me.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in the industry?
Well it completely emphasises my passion for inclusion and equality, so it means the world to me.
Have you ever experienced any challenges in work because you’re a woman?
There have been a few times when people are surprised to meet a female doing the sort of job I do, this initially made me feel quite self-conscious. However, as I previously mentioned, my job is very rewarding – my priority is the people I will help and not judgements others pass on me. I like not fitting the mold, it is exciting to be young and female showing people in the industry that this is a great thing.
How do you feel women are progressing in the tech world?
Women are progressing immensely, there are so many organisations encouraging this now, such as ‘Ladies That UX’ and ‘Girls Who Code’. It is very exciting to see so much enthusiasm for a more diverse industry.
What advice would you give to a young girl/woman wanting to get into a similar job to yours?
Do it. Immerse yourself and learn as much as possible. The industry is constantly developing, and accessibility needs to be injected into digital creation from day one.
Throw out the voices in your head that tell you not to speak up – be vocal and proactive in the industry.
What do you think is the best route for people in the industry?
I really like the route I went on, as I didn’t plan any of it. It was so spontaneous and it organically became part of my life. I started from the perspective of the users, then naturally came to the side of digital content creation. I would recommend to do something of a similar sort of route. As at the end of the day, the people using the digital content are the most important part of it all really and should be at the centre of the design process.
What are your career goals?
No idea, I haven’t planned any of my career so far and it has worked out better than I could’ve ever imagined. So I am going to continue to not plan and enjoy the journey!
Any final words for our Liverpool Girl Geeks?
Yes, I recently read a great book that everyone has to read – “The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k” by Sarah Knight. It’s a game changer, you have to read it!
Written by Georgia Flynn